Thursday, December 19, 2013

ObamaCare updates December 19 , 2013 - As Many Uninsured Oppose Obamacare as Favor It , which is not what the expectation would have been ! In other news , note the shocker of the day -- Surprise: Insurers extend deadline to pay first month of ObamaCare plan premiums until January 10th ....... And on the new head of

Boehner Calls for One Year Obamacare Delay

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Kurt Nimmo
December 20, 2013
House Speaker and Ohio Republican John Boehner has called for a one year delay in the individual mandate under the Obamacare bill. Boehner made the suggestion on Friday following the Obama administration’s announcement it would exempt people who had their policies canceled under the law.
“With this latest delay, the Obama administration is once again admitting that the president’s health care law is unworkable and unaffordable,” Boehner said in a statement. “Millions have lost the plans they liked, only to find themselves priced out of new policies with higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs.”
“The administration’s action does nothing to address the problems at the center of the president’s health care law, or to help the families suffering its consequences. All Americans deserve a hardship exemption from this train wreck of a law, and a focus on patient-centered reforms that will help lower costs and protect jobs.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also called for a suspension.
“Our entire health care system can’t be fundamentally changed at any given time subject to the random impulses of President Obama,” Canton declared in an earlier statement. “How can anyone make health care decisions today knowing that the law may be unilaterally changed again tomorrow? Republicans have consistently asked for a one year delay of the mandates for all Americans, and put forward a proposal to allow American families to keep their health plans. The White House actions clearly prove ObamaCare can’t work as designed. It’s time for ObamaCare to be delayed for all.”
In August, Boehner warned Republicans to not shut down the government in an effort to stop the implementation of Obamacare.
Earlier this month the Speaker criticized the tea party faction in the House for shutting down the government. He predicted the effort may result in Democrats regaining control of the House of Representatives.

CBS: Top ObamaCare official wanted site shut down over security risks — and was overruled


It’s not as if HHS wasn’t aware of concerns over security for the ObamaCare exchange they launched.  Dozens of Attorneys General issued public warnings over the summer about the lack of security in a system that would contain the most private identity information of any web portal ever. Their own Inspector General blasted the contractors working on the site in June for their performance on security.
Still, HHS rolled out the site even with those gaps unaddressed, putting millions of Americans at risk for identity theft — but the news gets worse.  CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson reports this morning that a top official in the ObamaCare exchange told Congress on Tuesday that HHS discovered two more big security issues that no one detected before the rollout:
A top security officer told Congress there have been two, serious high-risk findings since the website’s launch, including one on Monday of this week, CBS News has learned.
Teresa Fryer, the chief information security officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), revealed the findings when she was interviewed Tuesday behind closed doors by House Oversight Committee officials. The security risks were not previously disclosed to members of Congress or the public. Obama administration officials have firmly insisted there’s no reason for any concern regarding the website’s security. …
Details are not being made public for security reasons but Fryer testified that one vulnerability in the system was discovered during testing last week related to an incident reported in November. She says that as a result, the government has shut down functionality in the vulnerable part of the system. Fryer said the other high-risk finding was discovered Monday.
Fryer then told Congress that she recommended the site be shut down to address the security gaps — and was overruled:
“My recommendation was a denial of ATO [Authority to Operate -- allowing the website to go live],” Fryer told Democrats and Republicans who sat in on the day-long interview. According to Fryer, she first recommended denying the ATO to CMS chief information officer Tony Trenkle based on the many outstanding security concerns after pre-launch testing.
“I had discussions with him on this and told him that my evaluation of this was a high risk,” Fryer told the committee. Trenkle retired from his CMS job on Nov. 13. He has not responded to CBS News interview requests.
That must have been news to Congress.  As Attkisson recounts, Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress on October 30th that “no senior official reporting to me ever advised me that we should delay.” While Sebelius may be able to claim that Fryer didn’t report to her and that her statement was technically accurate, Congress may want to know why Sebelius went forward with the launch without Fryer’s signature on the letter recommending the ATO. Fryer also told Congress that she personally briefed Sebelius’ advisers on her recommendation to withhold the ATO on September 20th, six weeks before her testimony to Congress.
Once again, we have the spectacle of another high-ranking Obama administration official misrespresenting — at best — the operations of agencies to Congress in areas of legitimate oversight.  The question is beginning to change from who’s being dishonest to whether anyone on Barack Obama’s team has ever been honest in testimony to Congress.  I’d expect House Oversight chair Darrell Issa to start issuing subpoenas to everyone briefed by Fryer, so that the question of obstruction of Congress by Kathleen Sebelius can be answered.  (Those names include the already-discredited Henry Chao, by the way.)  It’s clear that the dishonesty of this administration extends far and wide.
Update (Allahpundit): Fryer’s not the only techie at CMS whose signature was mysteriously missing from the Authority to Operate. Remember Tony Trenkle? He was the project manager who left the agency in November — an unusual move given the all-hands-on-deck attitude to fixing at the time. Trenkle also didn’t sign the ATO. Ispeculated at the time that he refused for the same reasons that Fryer did, namely, that no tech specialist with a conscience would greenlight a site this vulnerable, but the official explanation was that CMS chief Marilyn Tavenner wanted to sign the ATO herself because this project was super-important and should be formally endorsed by the head of the agencyor whatever. Sure looks like Tavenner was fully aware of how dangerous could be to users who entered their private information but insisted that the site be launched anyway, over the objections of her own team. It’s subpoena time.

Great news: If you like your cancellation, you can keep your cancellation!


Old and busted: “Those cancellations are exactly what we want, because people can sign up for better plans now!” New hotness: Those catastrophic plans we derided for the last five years will work just fine for all of you who got screwed by the Affordable Care Act. Or, hey,don’t bother getting insurance at all!
The Obama administration on Thursday night significantly relaxed the rules of the federal health-care law for millions of consumers whose individual insurance policies have been canceled, saying they can buy bare-bones plans or entirely avoid a requirement that most Americans have health coverage.
The surprise announcement, days before the Dec. 23 deadline for people to choose plans that will begin Jan. 1, triggered an immediate backlash from the health insurance industry and raised fairness questions about a law intended to promote affordable and comprehensive coverage on a widespread basis.
The only “surprise” about this announcement is that they made it on Thursday night, rather than opt for the Friday-night news dump strategy.  Maybe they figured that the media had more or less gone home for the holiday already.  Maybe HHS is taking the day off today, and needed to release it yesterday. They managed to take most of the days off in the 42-month web portal development cycle, so what’s another day, eh?
Otherwise, this has been the inevitable end game with the Monday deadline for January 1 coverage rapidly approaching.  The front end of is still a disaster, and the back end largely non-existent. Millions of people have had their existing insurance cancelled already, and only a few hundred thousand had managed to sign up — and many of those are Medicaid enrollments.  Even if the White House wanted to pretend that all is well, their utter incompetence and dishonesty would have had the effect of making millions of people income-tax cheats.
But can these people actually buy the kind of catastrophic insurance that made sense for most of them before ObamaCare?  ObamaCare, don’t forget, forced insurers to drop those kinds of plans in favor of ridiculously comprehensive plans that most healthy people won’t need anyway. And what happens if the millions of newly-uninsured sign up for such low-cost policies — or don’t bother to sign up at all?  The insurance industry just found out what it’s like under the Obama bus:
It is unclear how many people facing canceled policies will choose no insurance, bare-bones coverage or a plan through the insurance exchanges that meet new federal standards. But the prospect that healthy people with canceled insurance might opt out of the new health plans set off immediate alarm among insurance industry leaders, who already have been worried whether enough people who are inexpensive to cover will sign up.
“This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers,” said Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s main trade group.
No kidding. And don’t forget that without the mandate, they don’t have to buy insurance at all.  If they actually need coverage during the year, they can buy it then, thanks to the must-cover mandate in ObamaCare.  Now the uninsured won’t even have to pay a fine to make that cost-saving choice.
The White House figures that this will only impact less than 500,000 people:
It wasn’t immediately clear how many people might qualify under such an arrangement. The administration said Thursday that it believed that fewer than 500,000 people whose existing coverage had been terminated hadn’t yet enrolled in another plan.
First, that number is highly suspect.  More than 5 million cancellations went out, and only 365,000 people total had signed up in federal and state exchanges at the beginning of December.  But there’s another reason to be skeptical, too.  No one has really enrolled until they make their first premium payment, assuming that the insurers even have the correct enrollee information in the first place.  This is an open call for all of those who are getting shafted by high premiums to simply decide not to send that payment at all and take advantage of the amnesty. That choice will be most likely made by the healthiest (and youngest) “enrollees” who don’t need comprehensive coverage — leaving the less healthy and older to seriously disrupt the risk pools.
It’s a complete catastrophe. And the insurers aren’t going to have catastrophic coverage forthis debacle.
UpdateDaniel Halper makes a good point about this “hardship” exemption:
Today, the administration agreed with a group of senators, led by Mark Warner of Virginia, who argued that having your insurance plan canceled counted as “an unexpected natural or human-caused event.” For these people, in other words, Obamacare itself is the hardship. You can read HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ full letter here. HHS’s formal guidance is here.
Yes, ObamaCare is the hardship. However, there’s another point, too.  The individual mandate is a tax, don’t forget, and not just a regulatory requirement. Is there a “hardship exemption” from paying taxes on an individual basis? Not one of which I’m aware, and certainly not without Congressional action.
Update: Dang it, I thought I was being original with the headline, but Jeryl Bier beat me to it last night:
  1. Great news: If you like your cancellation, you can keep your cancellation! 
@EdMorrissey I'll look for my royalty payment in the mail... 

The White House will create another exemption to Obamacare’s individual mandate, the Washington Post reported.
People who had their insurance plan cancelled as a result of the new healthcare law and who are unable to find a comparably priced plan on the federal or state exchanges will be allowed to claim a “hardship exemption,” and will not face fines for not purchasing insurance. Those persons will also have the option of buying a healthcare plan that does not meet the minimum coverage requirements under Obamacare — known as a “catastrophe plan” — without any penalty.
The change, which Politico reports will be announced tomorrow, comes just four days before the deadline for individuals to purchase insurance. It is the latest alteration to the law prompted by the dysfunctional enrollment website and complaints from many people who discovered that even though they liked their plan, they could not keep it.

Slapstick calamity continues: People who lost insurance because of Obamacare given mandate exemption

By Doug Powers  •  December 19, 2013 10:45 PM
**Written by Doug Powers
This is probably comes as a real relief to those who lost their policies and have already been forced to buy (or try to buy) more expensive policies through an Obamacare exchange:
The Obama administration Thursday night significantly relaxed the rules of the health-care law for millions of consumers whose individual insurance policies have been canceled, saying they could buy bare-bones health plans or entirely avoid the requirement that most Americans have health insurance.
The surprise announcement, four days before the Dec. 23 deadline for people to choose coverage that begins on Jan. 1, triggered an immediate backlash from the health insurance industry and raised new fairness questions about a law intended to promote affordable and comprehensive coverage.
Basically it sounds like the lie of the year has been revised to: “If you liked the plan you lost, you can keep that plan if you can still get it back.”
“This type of last-minute change will cause tremendous instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers,” said Robert Zirkelbach, spokeman for American’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s main trade group.
It’s almost as if the Obama administration is unilaterally repealing the law without actually repealing the law. I must have missed the episode of Schoolhouse Rock where it said that’s constitutional.

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The White House's new Obamacare progress metric: people "poised to gain coverage."

As Many Uninsured Oppose Obamacare as Favor It

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The uninsured, which along with those with existing conditions, would seem to be the clearest beneficiaries of Obamacare, and were thus assumed by many to favor it. But a new poll shows that on the whole far more distrustful that the Administration likely expected.
Fifty-three percent of the uninsured disapprove of the law, the poll found, compared with 51 percent of those who have health coverage. A third of the uninsured say the law will help them personally, but about the same number think it will hurt them, with cost a leading concern.
Mind you, disliking the law is not necessarily the same as not signing up:
Still, nearly six in 10 uninsured said having insurance would make their own health better. And 56 percent said they were more likely than not to get insurance by March 31, the deadline to enroll in coverage or face a tax penalty under the law. Thirty-five percent said they were more likely to pay the penalty….. And nearly six in 10 said they had not researched insurance on the online marketplace, even though, based on the demographics of the sample, many probably qualify for free or subsidized coverage.
I have to tell you, having done lots of marketing surveys, asking people whether they will or won’t buy a product is a highly unreliable way of gauging purchase intent. First, with polls in general, subtle differences in wording produce large differences in results. Second, and more important, consumer questionnaires and polls generally produce statements of willingness/intention to buy that are much higher than what actually happens. Survey respondents seem to have a a bias to please the interviewer by signaling willingness to make a purchase (that may not be operative here) and impress the interviewer with their economic status (as in saying they’d buy is a marker of being better off). So it’s reasonable to assume that actual results are more likely to be worse than what this poll finds rather than better.
Cost was the big reasons for expecting not to sign up; nearly half of the ones who gave negative signals cited it as the reason. And across all uninsured, only 10% expected Obamacare to make insurance cheaper (notice the confusion of insurance with health care, since the ACA almost assuredly will give them access to lower-cost insurance. But the question remains whether their all in health care costs are lower or not, given the typical high deductibles with low premium plans). Mind you, some of the people who are finding they can’t afford the plans are distraught. Michael Olenick provided this Facebook posting from a friend in her 50s, Roxanne:
Broke down crying during conversation with insurance agent, who confirmed my situation… as I un-enrolled in the only hope, a plan that I cannot afford… wondering what the hell I’m going to do if I get sick, how to get my prescription for Metropolol filled… feeling extremely small and insignificant… I couldn’t hold back tears. The poor guy couldn’t wait to hang up. The house was so big and quiet then. When you feel so low, it’s like even the walls are strangers… I am not alone, though. There’s many others with less, I know that for sure….
I don’t know, I guess I just fucked up, and now can’t afford insurance. It’s not like I committed a crime! Maybe it won’t be that bad. If I have to go to the doctor, I will pay them when I can. And if I get too sick and die? It has to happen someday anyway! Look at all the joy and love I have in my life. Maybe if I share my story others will calm down about it, too. We are so much more than this messed up system. How’s that song go… “Those not busy being born are busy dying.” I choose the former. . . So, as I head into the next chapter, I will go with a strong heart, knowing we’re all only here a short time anyway.
The uninsured also overwhelmingly resent being required to buy insurance, with 77% disapproving (and this resentment being the reason nearly 30% of the time for expecting not to sign up). And the poll restricted the range of focus to health insurance, not health care. For instance:
In addition, 64 percent of the uninsured and 54 percent of the general public said they thought providing access to affordable health care coverage for all Americans was the responsibility of the federal government.
At the same time, only 37 percent of the general public and 33 percent of the uninsured said the law was so flawed that it should be repealed.
But another factor that is clearly important, but apparently not included in the survey questions, is the complexity:
Mr. [David] Bishop, who is caring for his four children while his wife works, said he had looked at New York’s online insurance marketplace but found it difficult to use and did not get the information he needed. He did say, however, that he planned to get insurance through the marketplace, or exchange, before the March deadline.
This matters due to the fact that the uninsured skew less educated, and one would also assume that many have limited access to the Internet (2011 Census data shows that members of households with $25,000 to $49,999 in income, only 64% have access to the Internet from “some location”). Given the time it takes to shop for plans, that’s going to be a significant obstacle for quite a few (the Administration perversely is trying to discourage paper-based signups).
And the uninsured may have picked up on the narrow networks issue:
In one of the poll’s more striking findings, 44 percent of the uninsured said the new law would have no effect on the quality of the health care they receive. Thirty percent went so far as to say it would result in them getting worse quality of care, while less than a quarter predicted their care would improve.
And the poll findings are consistent with enrollment data: so far, fewer people eligible for subsidies than expected have signed up, although the ratio was higher in November than October.
When I read the lack of enthusiasm overall from one of its intended beneficiary groups, I can’t help thinking of one of the early Obamacare promotional videos (I’ve looked but there are so many I can’t locate it). It showed a flat cutout figure of a woman, with the entire segment in bright flat colors, the sort you see in children’s books. The video described how shopping for healthcare would be easy, and showed the cartoon woman scurrying with a cart through a store, putting different products in it, and then showed her shopping for insurance in the same manner (as in picking a policy off a shelf and putting it in her cart).
I found the imagery horrifying. Citizens aren’t just reduced to “consumers”: they were depicted in an infantilized manner, imaged as obedient puppets scurrying through the Administration’s shopping “experience.” If this is what the Administration really thinks of voters (and women), one might wonder if its target audience is picking up on its not-too-well-formulated marketing messages, as well as the defects in the product itself.

Surprise: Insurers extend deadline to pay first month of ObamaCare plan premiums until January 10th


The deadline was December 31st, but faced with the prospect of 50 percent or more of their new enrollees going uncovered in January due to nonpayment, some individual insurers had already begun granting grace periods. Then HHS announced that it was strongly urging (wink wink) insurers across the industry to extend their deadlines too. And now, inevitably, here comes the umbrella group America’s Health Insurance Plans to say that its members have done exactly that.
No matter how messy the White House’s mismanagement of O-Care’s rollout gets, the insurance industry has no choice now but to try to clean it up. You bought the ticket, guys. Enjoy the ride.
As a result of the change, individuals who pick plans by Dec. 23 will be considered covered as of Jan. 1 as long as they pay their first month’s premiums by Jan. 10. Previously, payment had been required by Dec. 31…
In addition to asking insurers to allow consumers more time to process payments, HHS asked insurers to treat out-of-network providers as in-network, to continue to allow individuals to refill prescriptions that had been covered under previous plans and to accept partial payments for January premiums. AHIP did not address those requests in its statement.
It’s only the deadline for payment that’s changed, not the December 23rd deadline for enrollment, but we’ll see how that goes during the next few weeks. I’m sure the White House would love to extend the enrollment deadline into January too, with coverage retroactive to January 1st, but that’s more dangerous for insurers since in theory it would allow someone to sign up for insurance after they’ve already had an expensive accident. Maybe HHS could allow for retroactive enrollment with the caveat that claims over a certain amount won’t be covered? Or maybe they’ll just shovel some “risk corridor” money at insurers to cover any heavy losses from people who sign up to pay for pricey treatment that’s already been incurred. There are bound to be good-faith cases next month of people who really did try to sign up before this month’s deadline but were thwarted by lingering problems with or by the fact that the federal data hub still isn’t working well enough to let them enroll directly with insurers as a workaround. (At least one state exchange website has performed so terribly that some locals think they should switch to because it’s … more reliable.) Once you let those people enroll retroactively, why not let others whose attempt at enrollment in December wasn’t quite as diligent enroll too? All the better to pad HHS’s sign-up numbers.
But that raises a bigger question: Why would insurers further complicate their lives by bending over backwards this way for procrastinating consumers? Sure, they’d like to have some extra revenue in January by letting latecomers sneak in before January 10th, but insurers forgo revenue all the time by sticking to preset deadlines. Is this simply a little Christmas generosity on the industry’s part? No, silly: They were threatened by the federal government.
Health industry consultant Kip Piper said HHS doesn’t have the authority to enforce what he calls these “political requests” [for deadline extensions]. But HHS said it will consider insurers’ cooperation now when it decides which ones can participate on the insurance exchanges next year.
“They are simultaneously asking insurers to assume the cost and risk of non-payment, taking public credit for it, and threatening insurers with loss of business if they don’t comply,” said Piper, a former government and insurance industry official.
Avik Roy made the same point a few days ago, pointing to the “menacing language” used by HHS in its new regulations urging insurers to comply with its extension “requests.” That should be illegal, says Roy, but is there any insurer bold enough to sue the feds over it, knowing that they might retaliate by booting them from the exchanges just as millions of new consumers are being forced onto them? This is why you don’t do business with the mafia: When they “ask” you for something, there’s no way to say no.
By the way, via Guy Benson, Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog has gone from arguing that the enrollment numbers are far less important than the demographic make-up of the exchange risk pools to arguing that it’s less important than you think that the risk pools contain lots of “young invincibles.” That’s the best evidence yet that HHS is lagging badly in signing up young adults.

Two months ago  was Apple.. Now it's Microsoft... It will be a Commodore by January and an Abacus in March.